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In defence of conjugality

In defence of conjugality

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Published by Michael Cook
IN DEFENCE OF CONJUGALITY:
THE COMMON-GOOD CASE AGAINST SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Briefing Paper ||March 2012

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SUMMARY  The demand for gay marriage is less a demand for equal treatment than a call for marriage to be redefined. The conjugal idea of marriage as a union of a man and a woman open to children must be rejected in favour of another idea of marriage as an emotional or sexual bond between two people. In this idea of marriage, children are irrelevant. This is not an issue about equality. To
IN DEFENCE OF CONJUGALITY:
THE COMMON-GOOD CASE AGAINST SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Briefing Paper ||March 2012

1

SUMMARY  The demand for gay marriage is less a demand for equal treatment than a call for marriage to be redefined. The conjugal idea of marriage as a union of a man and a woman open to children must be rejected in favour of another idea of marriage as an emotional or sexual bond between two people. In this idea of marriage, children are irrelevant. This is not an issue about equality. To

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Published by: Michael Cook on Mar 08, 2012
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01/16/2013

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1
I
N DEFENCE OFCONJUGALITY 
:
 THECOMMON
-
GOOD CASEAGAINSTSAME
-
SEX MARRIAGE
 
Briefing Paper
||
March 2012 
 
2
SUMMARY 
 
The demand for gay marriage is less a demand for equal treatment thana call for marriage to be redefined. The conjugal idea of marriage as aunion of a man and a woman open to children must be rejected infavour of another idea of marriage as an emotional or sexual bondbetween two people. In this idea of marriage, children are irrelevant.
 
This is not an issue about equality. To give everyone equal access tomarriage would require the state to cease to recognise marriagealtogether.
 
The state cannot be neutral about marriage. If it wishes to promotemarriage, it must say what marriage is and for. If it is not conjugal, thereis no reason for the state to promote one set of relationships overanother.
 
The state promotes marriage precisely because it provides the bestpossible environment for the begetting and nurturing of children. If thestate renounces that idea, there will be consequences for children.
 
Marriage exists not just for the couple, but for the common good of society; it is popular because it works. The Government should leave italone.
 
 Arguments from reason
This paper, published shortly before the Government presents its consultation on redefiningmarriage in order to open it to same-sex partnerships, sets forth the arguments against such aredefinition. It is designed to be read in conjunction with the poll, published on 8 March,carried out for Catholic Voices by ComRes. Although the paper draws on statements andarticles by Catholic and other church leaders, it eschews theological or religiouspresuppositions in order to argue from natural-law or reason-based propositions.
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 The impression has been created that the case against same-
sex ‘marriage’ arises
out of religiously-sanctioned disapproval of homosexuality. This frame, which has been encouragedfor obvious reasons by advocates of same-sex marriage, is false for a number of reasons.Firstly, this is not a debate not about gay rights or homosexuality, but about whetherthe conjugal definition of marriage should be redefined. The same debate would need to beheld if the call were to permit, say, polygamous marriages.
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Although they are not responsible for its content, we are grateful to Archbishop Peter Smith, RichardKonicki, Charles Wookey, David Quinn & Neil Addison, whose briefings to the Catholic Voices Academy on this question have informed this paper.
 
3Secondly, the Government proposes to extend
civil 
marriage to homosexual couples.Civil marriages lie outside the authority of the Churches (and faiths); religious objections tothe proposed change are therefore at best irrelevant or inappropriate.Third, marriage has an intrinsic cultural and social meaning
a
conjugal 
meaning
  which is not specific to religious understandings of marriage, although religion gives it extrameaning. Whether entered by the religious or the civil route, marriage is marriage; its intrinsicconjugal meaning will need to be rejected in order to allow same-sex marriage.Understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, and for thecreation and upbringing of children, marriage is an expression of our fundamentalhumanity. Its status in law is the prudent fruit of experience, for the good of thespouses and the good of the family. In this way society esteems the married couple asthe source and guardians of the next generation. As an institution marriage is at thefoundation of our society.
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  As our ComRes poll shows, the belief that marriage is, and should remain, a life-longunion between a man and a woman is shared by 70 per cent of the British people, andtherefore cannot be attributed to religious conviction. The same survey shows that marriageitself is cherished: 68 per cent of British people believe it is important to society and should bepromoted by the state. So, too, is the idea of marriage as a conjugal institution: anoverwhelming 84 per cent of British people believe that a child raised by its mother and fatherhas the best chance in life.Most British people believe these propositions while at the same time believing in legalrights for same-sex couples: our poll shows 59 per cent support for the state recognising stablerelationships between same-sex couples through the civil partnership scheme. Most Britishpeople, in other words, regard it as reasonable, consistent and coherent to favour grantinglegal rights and privileges to gay people while being resolutely opposed
as are many gay people
 
to the idea of ‘gay marriage’.
This does not mean religious voices should be silent in this debate: indeed, the mostorganised and coherent opposition to gay marriage has so far come from the Churches andchurch leaders who recognise marriage as a natural institution which brings great benefits tosociety as a whole.That is why it is not enough to respond to that opposition
as the Government has sofar done
by reassuring church leaders that there will be no attempt to impose gay marriageon religious groups. The point at issue is the redefinition of civil marriage, for same-sexmarriage can only be created by overthrowing the conjugal understanding of marriage insociety as a whole.It is also inadequate to assert, as does the gay rights lobby Stonewall, that "if RomanCatholics don't approve of same-sex marriage, they should make sure they don't get married
2
 
‘A Letter on Marriage from the President and Vice
-
President of the Bishops’ Conference of Englandand Wales’, 11 March 2012 (first published in the
Daily Telegraph
, 7 March 2012)

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